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Ventura County's Support-Local Program

Institution Ales and Spicetopia: Keeping It Totally Local

Take a local brewery, add a dash of a retail spice shop, blend with Totally Local VC and what do you get? Happy customers! Here’s the wonderful story.


Shaun Smith (left) of Institution Ales Company and Ashley Pope of Spicetopia
worked together to create a new beer for Winter Wine Walk

How a chance pairing led to a flavorful partnership

When Ashley Pope took over Spicetopia in Downtown Ventura in early October, her goal was to maintain the unique spice and tea offerings their customers had come to know. But she also realized that including other California-crafted artisan foods would be a key to expanding the boutique store and that marketing was chief on her mind. Pope knew the annual Winter Wine Walk in early December could attract holiday sales and new customers at a critical time. The event had done just that in 2012, Spicetopia’s inaugural year, and Pope wanted the exposure to give customers a fresh look.

Totally Local VC: connecting local companies



Her only problem? She didn’t have a beverage provider and it was late in the game. Because Spicetopia is a member of Totally Local VC, Pope called on founder Kat Merrick for assistance. With wineries and craft breweries both permitted for the Wine Walk, Merrick was able to give Pope a short list of possible contacts.

Pope’s call to Institution Ales Company of Camarillo proved fortuitous for both companies. Shaun Smith, Institution Ales’ Sales Director (and sometimes brewer) was not only happy to provide the beverage samples Pope needed, but he would also pour for the event. And, he would even go one step further – Institution Ales would specially brew a beer using Spicetopia ingredients exclusively for the Wine Walk. As happy as Pope was with his offer, Smith was equally excited to learn about Spicetopia, a local store selling high-quality spices that could be a source of unique ingredients for Institution Ales’ experimental, small-batch recipes. The fact that the spices Pope carries are both organic and fair trade is also very important to Smith.

Institution Ales Company's tasting room

Institution Ales Company’s tasting room

Institution Ales Company was created by Shaun, his brother Ryan Smith, who is the head brewmaster, and their father Roger Smith. Their goal was to provide their native Camarillo and the surrounding areas with a great local brewery where beer aficionados and novices alike could gather to enjoy and discuss what they call the “world’s greatest beverage.” The Smiths believe that craft beer is the ultimate social beverage – unconventional but not exclusive, complex but not pretentious and historic but never outdated. Institution Ales takes pride in making beers that are stylistic and finely crafted with unique and subtle twists.

A new beer is crafted, a new alliance is born

Bourbon Vanilla beans and cocoa nibs from Spicetopia brewed with Institution Ales’ Restraint, a brown ale, proved to be popular among Wine Walk guests. The blend was smooth, rich and creamy and slightly sweet on the finish. While Pope can’t offer beer samples on a regular basis, she will definitely advertise Institution Ales events as well as a list of beers they offer using her spices.

keeping-it-local-spicesKat Merrick, founder of Totally Local VC, noted, “Helping our local businesses connect and understand the value in working in collaboration is one of our primary goals. It is so rewarding to see great businesses like Spicetopia and Institution Ales team up and further showcase what Ventura County has to offer.” These two young entrepreneurs are looking forward to expanding their working relationship and cross-promoting each others ventures. And, they will certainly be touting the proven value of their Totally Local VC membership. Some of the best things happen when you’re in a pinch. Or is that a dash?


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